Documentary on EcoMobility World Festival

by Suwon iTV (March 2013)

English summary: 

Why did we give up walking space to cars? 

The world is watching Haenggung-dong, the pilot project area in Suwon where EcoMobility World Festival 2013 takes place. The residents of the Haenggung-dong neighborhood in Suwon, South Korea, will temporarily adopt an ecomobile lifestyle, to experience how traveling through integrated, socially inclusive, and healthy transport options can positively change their lifestyle. 

The Festival will show how EcoMobility provides innovative environmental friendly means of transport – including ecomobile vehicles and public transportation - within a city to all its inhabitants irrespective of age, gender or physical capability. 

Why Haenggung-dong neighborhood? 

The Haenggung-dong neighborhood is a place steeped in history where the UNESCO World Heritage, Hwaseong Fortress is located and the former city center of Suwon developed. Due to the development restrictions to preserve the fortress, this neighborhood did not have as many opportunities to develop its infrastructure as other parts of the city. 

Just like in Seoul, for example, where almost abandoned historic streets in Bukchon were transformed into an area now attracting 60,000 visitors daily, the Haenggung-dong neighborhood will now benefit from public investment to upgrade the public realm.

Presently, Haenggung-dong is not a safe environment for cyclists due to the dominance of cars throughout the neighborhood’s streets. Car free days are nothing new, with many events organized annually in cities across the world, where cities are refocusing on people, rather than cars. However, EcoMobility World Festival is the world’s largest and longest running EcoMobility project organized to date, making it a unique and ambitious venture.

The first steps in initiating the project involved consultation with government officers who highlighted concerns about the reaction of local residents to the project. Since 2011, 15 workshops for 700 government officials have been held in Suwon.

Reactions of the residents

The residents, particularly shop owners, are concerned about not being able to have cars in the streets during the Festival period. However, residents have been brought together and developed closer relationships through the Festival preparation events.

A Street Sports Event was organized to bring the residents together, which also gave a glimpse of how the street will look during the Festival. Residents played traditional games and participated in diverse sports activities in the neighborhood streets. Since then, many residents have developed a more positive outlook on the prospect of regaining their streets from cars.

Tae-Young Yeom (Mayor of Suwon): “The current structure and system is car-centered and does not give people enough space to move around the city with flexibility and convenience. Unlike other Car Free Days, the Festival is not a one-off event. It involves a change of infrastructure and people will have a significant period of adjustment to gradually change their habits towards a more ecomobile lifestyle.” 

Lim Jeong Wan (civil officer): “People can change their minds, as indeed I did. In 2012, when I first heard about EcoMobility World Festival, I found the concept surprising and had concerns about the outcome. However, after witnessing the residents’ enthusiasm for change, I started to change my mind. There will always be some challenges,  but we have hopes and dreams to overcome them to make the Festival a big success!” 

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